Tea in February

Tea in February

February is the coldest time of the year in Japan. Particularly, in Kyōto, the heart of Chanoyu. In traditional Japan, there was, and is, little difference between outside and inside, with only a single sheet of paper separating them. People simply put on more clothing, and warm the hands near a charcoal fire held in a hi-bachi, 火鉢, fire-bowl, or on a te-aburi, 手焙, hand-toast.

Hai-zara, 灰皿, ash-dish, te-aburi, 手焙, hand-toast, white ceramic container in the form of Hime Yuki-daru-ma, 姫雪達磨, princess snow-attain-polish, un-signed, H. 5.3 sun kane-jaku.

Hime Yuki-daruma, 姫雪達磨, princess snow-attain-polish, is a guise of O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune. Otafuku has her origins in the Shintō goddess of spring, Ame-no-uzu-me no Mikoto, 天之鈿女命, Heaven-’s-comb-woman lady. She was responsible for luring Ama-terasu Ō-kami, 天照大神, Heaven-brightener Great-god, the sun goddess, out of hiding in the Ame-no-iwa-to, 天の岩戸, Heaven-’s-stone-door, after being outraged by the vile and destructive actions of her brother, Su-sa-no-mikoto, 須佐の尊, Necessary-assist-’s-lord. Uzume as Otafuku is celebrated on Setsu-bun, 節分, Season-divide, the eve of Ri-sshun, 立春, Start-spring, February 3, 2023.

The ceramic figure was conceived as an ashtray, with indentations for cigarettes at the back. However, putting a piece of burning charcoal in a bed of ash, makes a fine hand-warmer. In Japan, a typical snowman is made to look like Daruma. While sitting for nine years, Daruma lost the use of his legs, so that he is pictured without them. A hand-warmer is often presented to the guests in cold weather, and would be offered to the guests before preparing usu-cha, 薄茶, thin-tea. 

Smoking articles are presented to the guest, such as the typical tabako bon, 煙草盆, smoke-plant tray. A tabako bon is usually present in the machi-ai, 待合, wait-gather, at the koshi-kake machi-ai, 腰掛待合, bottom-hang wait-gather, where guests assemble before entering the Tearoom, in the ro-ji, 露地, dew-ground, garden, and in the Tearoom for the presentation of usu-cha, 薄茶, thin-tea.


Machi-ai, 待合, wait-gather 


Shiki-shi, 色紙, color-paper, pasteboard with image of a mask of O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune, and Shintō go-hei, 御幣, hon-staff with plaited paper streamers, with calligraphy, stamped, and signed (?).

            京 壬生寺 頭痛の … ふい  お福さん.         
            Kyō Mi-bu-dera zu-tsu no … fu-i O-fuku-san.
            Capital [Water’s Older Brother]-live-temple head-ache ’s … lose

The character, mi, 壬, also read Jin, used to write Mibudera, 壬生寺, is the geographical direction of north-northwest, and is a sign just to the west of the sign of Ne, 子, Rat.



When identified with the ancient capital, the gate in the actual southern quarter is identified with the sign of the Rat. The gate called Bi-fuku-mon, 美福門, Beauty-fortune-gate, is to the east of the central gate, and perhaps that is why the kanji for bi, which is also pronounced mi and fu, of fuku, were changed to mi-bu, 壬生.  Perhaps the original name of the gate was written with the Kanji, 壬生, but was changed to Bifuku, 美福.


Tabako bon, 煙草盆, smoke-plant tray, rectangular, open wooden box with kushi-gata, 櫛形, comb-shape, sides.

Tabako bon, 煙草盆, smoke-plant tray, rectangular, open wooden box with kushi-gata, 櫛形, comb-shape, sides, set with a lighter: L. 8 x 5 sun kane-jaku, hi-ire, 火入, fire-receptacle, made of a dried natural gourd, containing a piece of charcoal in a bed of ash, with an aodake hai-fuki, 灰吹, green-bamboo ash-blow: 4.5 sun kane-jaku, a pipe, kiseru, 煙管, smoke-tube, made of a , 籐, rattan, tube with brass bowl and mouthpiece: L. one kane-jaku, and paper folder, tabako ire, 煙草入, smoke-plant into, with a design of Kara-matsu, 唐松, Tang-pine, larch: 4.3 x 2 sun kujira-jaku (unfolded 9 x 5.7 sun kujira-jaku), choice of Tan-tan-sai, 淡々斎, Light-light-abstain, XIV Iemoto, Urasenke. In a Tea Ceremony setting to encourage relaxation, various smoking utensils are provided by the host, tei-shu, 亭主, house-master. The dried gourd is called a fukube, 瓢, and is wordplay on fuku as in Ota-fuku

Tabako ire, 煙草入, tobacco into, heavy black paper envelope with design of Kara-matsu, 唐松, Tang-plant, choice of Tan-tan-sai, 淡々斎, Light-light-abstain, XIV Iemoto, Urasenke.
Larch, Japanese Kara-matsu, 唐松, Tang-pine, evergreen conifer; used as a remedy for various skin disorders and certain organ disorders.
Ga-ran-dō, 伽蘭洞, Attend-orchid-cave, with utensils influenced by Setsu-bun, 節分, Season-divide; February 3. The Tearoom set for usu-cha ten-mae, 薄茶點前, thin-tea offer-fore, with tabako bon, 煙草盆, smoke-plant tray, indicating the place for the shō-kyaku, 正客, main-guest.
Ga-ran-dō, 伽蘭洞, Attend-orchid-cave, usu-cha ten-mae, 薄茶點前, thin-tea offer-fore, in progress. The Cha-dō-gu, 茶道具, tea-way-tools, have associations with Setsu-bun, 節分, Season-divide, O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune, and Ri-sshun, 立春, Start-spring, and The utensil storage box (H. 14 sun kane-jaku) is an adaptation of Rikyū’s Tea utensil display stand called tabi-dan-su, 旅箪笥, travel bamboo rice basket-cabinet.
Kake-mono, 掛物, hang-thing, with brush painting of a woman, and calligraphy, inscribed Abura-ya, 油屋, Oil-house, Fushi-mi tsuki shi-ga, 伏見月刺画, Bow-see moon thorn-brush.
Detail; caricature of a woman in kimono wearing a mask of Otafuku, holding a tabako bon, balancing a kiseru pipe on her nose.


Kake hana-ire, 掛花入, hang flower-enter, heavy stoneware vessel in the form of a hyō-tan, 瓢箪, gourd-basket, with green glaze, Shiga-raki yaki, 信楽焼, Faith-pleasure fired; H. 5.4 sun kane-jaku. The top of the vase is similar to the sunken uba-guchi, 姥口, hag-mouth.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather, porcelain, covered box, fuku masu, 福枡, fortune-box measure, with designs in some-tsuke, 染付, dye-attach, blue glaze of a mask of O-ta-fuku, お多福, Hon.-much-fortune, and base with a mask of an oni, 鬼, demon, and fuku-mame, 福豆, fortune-beans; W. 1.7 sun kane-jaku, by Taka-no Shō-a-mi, 高野 昭阿弥, High-field Bright-praise-increase, Kyōto.
Ro-gama, 炉釜, hearth-kettle, tetsu, 鉄, iron, settled sphere with sunken mouth, called ‘uba-guchi gama’, 姥口釜, hag-’s-mouth kettle, with a relief design of kashiwa no ha, 柏の葉, oak-’s-leaf, on the front and back of the vessel, which gives it the special name of ‘Kashiwa Gama’, 柏釜, Oak Kettle, by Taka-hashi Kei-ten, 高橋敬典, High-bridge Respect-law, Nin-gen Koku-hō, 人間国宝, Person-space Country-treasure, Yama-gata Shi, 山形市, Mountain-shape City: diam. 5.8 sun kujira-jaku. Choice of Sen Sen-sō, 仙叟, Thousand Hermit-old man, 7th generation Iemoto, Urasenke, Kyōto.

The word ubaguchi is associated with Oto-go-ze, 乙御前, Second-honored-before, who is one of Ame-no-uzume’s manifestations. The kettle’s name kashiwa-ba refers to the raised design of a large oak leaf on either side of the kama, which is to imply kashiwa-de, 柏手, oak-hands. Kashiwa-de is also the term for clapping one’s hands to get the attention of a deity at a Shintō shrine. There is wordplay on u-ba-guchi, 右左口, right-left-mouth, which refers to the right and left hands, which alludes to clapping kashiwade

There is a famous incident in which a valiant warrior named Kashiwade no Hanoshi, 膳泣巴提使, Tray-weep-comma-carry messenger, killed a menacing tiger in a bamboo grove near a waterfall in Korea. The above-pictured kama has kan-tsuki, 鐶付, metal ring-attach, that are in the form of pieces of bamboo, and the kettle is full of water. There are often multiple and somewhat obscure meanings identified with many kama.


The famous ‘Uba-guchi gama’, 姥口釜, Hag-’s-mouth kettle, identified with the maker Ten-neko, 天猫, Heaven-cat: the vessel was once owned by O-da Nobu-naga, 織田信長, Weave-field Truth-long, and is now in the collection of the Fujitsu Bi-jitsu-kan, 藤田美術館, Wisteria-field Beauty-art-hall, Ōsaka. Note that the mouth is not so deeply sunk in the top, but the lid is flush with the top surface of the vessel. Note also the loose ring on the lid knob.

Mizu-sashi, 水指, water-indicate, porcelain, settled sphere with sunken mouth, and self-lid, in the form of oto-go-ze, 乙御前, second-honorable-before, by An-dō Takumi, 安藤工, Peace-wisteria Artisan, Kyōto.

When I commissioned Andō San to make the mizusashi for a Setsubun Chakai, I wanted the vessel to evoke an image of mochi being pounded, mochi-tsuki, 餅搗き, which alludes to mochi-zuki, 望月, full-moon. And, of course suggesting O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune.

Omo-ga-shi, 主菓子, main-sweet-of, ‘Haku-tō-mochi’, 白桃餅, White-peach-mochi, Mina-moto Ki-tchō-an, 源吉兆庵, Origin Lucky-omen-hut. White an, 餡, sweetened white bean jam, flavored gyū-hi, 求肥, desire-plump, presented on a papers on a san-bō, 三宝, three-treasures, black-lacquered wood stand with three side openings, and with a pair of kuro-mo-ji, 黒文字, black-letter-character, spicebush picks: L. 8 sun kane-jaku.
Cha-ire, 茶入, tea-receptacle; settled spherical, ceramic jar with black glaze linear design by Marie Zieu Chino (1907-1982), Acoma, New Mexico; diam. 3¼ inches [2.8 sun kane-jaku, with zō-ge buta, 象牙蓋, elephant-tusk lid]. With shi-fuku, 仕服, serve-clothe, with naga-o, 長緒, long-cord, black and white silk check pattern with gold thread roundels called Ito-ya fū-tsū, 糸屋風通, Thread-house Wind-through. Utensils displayed on a purple silk fuku-sa, 帛紗, cloth-gauze. Some utensils are chosen for a particular reason, such as the word fuku.
Cha-shaku, 茶杓, tea-scoop, take, 竹, bamboo, naka-bushi, 中節, middle-node, saka-hi, 逆樋, reverse-trough, tsuyu-saki, 露先, dew-ahead, to-kin-gata, 兜巾型, helmet-cloth-shape, named ‘Takara-bune’, 宝船, Treasure-ship, unknown artist, L. 6.5 sun kane-jaku. The Shichi-fuku-jin, 七福神, Seven-fortune-gods, sail on the Takarabune on the New Year from Hō-rai-san, 蓬莱山, Mugwort-goosefoot-mountain, the Island of the Immortals, to Japan.
Omo ja-wan, 主茶碗, main tea-bowl, ceramic without ring foot, red glaze with black glaze area, named, ‘Oto-go-ze’, 乙御前, Second-honorable-fore, by Sa-sa-ki Shō-raku, 佐々木昭楽, Assist-help-tree Bright-pleasure; diam. 4 sun kane-jaku

The bowl is modeled after a chawan by Hon-a-mi Kō-etsu, 本阿弥光悦, Origin-praise-increase Light-rapture, which was one of several Tea bowls without the customary ring foot. The form of the Otogoze chawan with no ring foot, kō-dai, 高台, high-support, was inspired by the Otogoze kettle of Nobunaga. Rikyū also modeled chawan on the inverted forms of various kama, 釜, kettle, with the opening mouth of the kettle as the ring foot of the Teabowl.  The name ‘Otogoze’ refers to the home-ly second imperial daughter.

Futa-oki, 蓋置, lid-place, ceramic wa, , ring, with an open silhouette of an oni, 鬼, demon, and a raised ‘mask’ of Otafuku, お多福, O-much-fortune, with brown glaze, by Palmer and Steven Murphy: H. 1.9 sun kane-jaku

The lidrest illustrates the familiar phrase at Setsu-bun, 節分, Season-divide, “Oni wa soto fuku wa uchi”, 鬼は外福は内, demon is out fortune is in.

Hi-ga-shi, 干菓子, dry-sweet-of; molded sugar rakugan, 落雁, alight-goose, O-ta-fuku men, お多福面, O-much-fortune mask, and rectangular, so-ba-ita, 蕎麦板, buckwheat-barley-board, by O-wari-ya, 尾張屋, Tail-long-house, Kyōto.

Hira-natsume, 平棗, wide-jujube, tea container, black lacquered exterior, by Ara-i Shi-hō, 新井司峰, New-well Official-peak, Yama-naka chō, 山中町, Mountain-middle-town, with black-lacquered Kanji oni, 鬼, demon, on the lid, and red lacquered interior with a gold lacquered Kanji fuku, 福, fortune, on the underside of the lid, made by Taka-hashi Shō-zan, 高橋松山, High-bridge Pine-mountain, Ō-tsu, 大津, Big-port: H. 1.6 x 2.2 sun kujira-jaku. Designed by Palmer inspired by the Setsubun phrase, “Oni wa soto Fuku wa uchi,” 鬼は外 福は内, Demon as for out Fortune as for in.
Cha-wan, 茶碗, tea-bowl, brown ceramic bowl with a rim that suggests an outline of a mask of O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune, with a false kata-kuchi, 片口, side-mouth, with gray glaze and white ha-ke-me, 刷毛目, brush-hair-eye, by Asa-mi Yoshi-zō, 浅見与し三, Shallow-see Impart-three, and with color glaze design on the exterior of two oni, 鬼, demon, in the Ō-tsu-e, Big-port-picture, manner, and gold Kanji for fuku, 福, fortune, on the inside, by Taka-hashi Shō-zan, 高橋松山, High-bridge Pine-mountain, Ō-tsu, 大津, Big-port; approximate diam. 4 sun kane-jaku.

Cha-wan, 茶碗, tea-bowl, cream-colored ceramic han-zutsu, 半筒, half-cylinder, with design of a masu, , box measure in gold, green and gold glaze sasa, , bamboo grass, leaves, and mask of O-ta-fuku, お多福, O-much-fortune (not shown), signature stamp illegible: H. 3.3 sun kane-jaku. Right: enlarged image of the masu design with Kanji gyoku-kō, 玉合, jewel-gather.

The masu measuring box is made in many sizes of specific volume capacities. Basic masu are for measuring sake, rice, beans, etc. The box is easily used to measure fractions of the full amount. There is one standard size masu which contains 6 ‘cups’, roku-gō-masu, 六合升, six-gather-measuring box. Ichi, 一合, one-gather, equals 180.39 milliliters. The 6 masu can be used to measure one-half masu or 3, and 1 , by holding the masu in particular ways. When a masu is depicted, the image often is shown as a hexagon, ro-kkaku, 六角, six-corner, that indicates that it holds 6 . The number 6, roku, , is symbolic of Infinity in Time, with implications of the hexagonal pattern shell of the turtle and tortoise that are believed to live 10 thousand years.

The word masu also can be written with the Kanji, , which means increase, add, augment, etc, and masu-masu, 益々, increasingly, more and more, etc. There is an expression, masu-masu han-jō, 益々繁盛, increase-increase luxuriant-prosper, increase prosperity.

Left: kan-nabe, 燗鍋, warm sake-pot, sake pitcher, tetsu, , iron, settled sphere with sunken mouth, long, open V-spout, raised design of the crest, go-san no kiri, 五三の桐, five-three ’s paulownia, arched bridge steel handle with scallop ‘snowflake’ edge black-lacquered wooden lid. Right: kan-nabe, 燗鍋, warm sake-pot, sake pitcher, tetsu, , iron, settled sphere with barely sunken mouth, long, open V-spout, and a raised design of a tatsu, , dragon. The kannabe on the right has a mouth that is more like the mouth of Nobunaga’s Otogoze kama.

Sake bottle and sake cups for Setsu-bun, 節分, Season-divide, February 3. The sake bottle, porcelain tokku-ri, 徳利, virtue-advantage, in the form of Daruma, his limbs hidden, his head is the cup for sake, as is the smaller head of Otafuku. Sakazuki, 盃, sake cups, in the form of oni men, 鬼面, demon masks, with tiny fuku-mame, 福豆, fortune-bean, mask of Otafuku inside each. The utensils are arranged on a bon, 盆, tray, rectangular, black-lacquered, with a gilt design of an Otafuku men, 面, mask, in a bamboo basket, mi, 箕, winnow, rice plant, and a kuma-de, 熊手, bear-paw, rake: L. 11 sun kane-jaku.

Sake may be served whenever one wishes, and in a Cha-ji, 茶事, Tea-matter, additional sake may be offered separately with an azuke dokkuri, 預け徳利, leave virtue-advantage, that is left with the guests to serve themselves. The kannabe requires a server, which is the higher position, whereas, with a sake bottle, one can serve oneself. The sake cups may be a variety of forms and materials and sizes.

Left: gui-nomi, ぐい呑み, gulp-drink, stoneware cup with mottled glaze by Kuma-no Ku-rō-e-mon, 熊野九郎右ヱ門, Bear-plain Nine-son-right-enter-gate, Echi-zen, 越前, Surpass-fore. Middle: ceramic sakazuki, 盃, sake cup, with brown geometric designs and green glaze areas, Ori-be yaki, 織部焼, Weave-bureau fired, signed Shun-ji, 春二, Spring-two. Right: glass container of commercial brand sake named Sen-puku, 千福, Thousand-fortune: H. 4 sun kane-jaku.

Sake is sold in containers that are also publicly available in street vending machines. Sake is so enjoyed, that much effort and money are incidental to acquiring fine works of art from which to drink sake. Extravagance can know no bounds. When the Japanese government lifted restrictions on making sake, hundreds of brewers came out of the shadows with traditional and new recipes. It should be understood that sake is NOT ‘rice wine’, but a kind of flat beer, as sake is brewed, and grape wine is definitely not. In a Chaji, sake is heated, kansuke, , warming sake, and never ever heated to a boil, warmed. Sake is served in small amounts so that that it is drunk in one to three sips, and should not put down with sake remaining in the cup.

Sake cups and pitcher commonly used during a Cha-ji, 茶事, Tea-matter. Left: hiki-hai, 引盃, draw- sake cup, lacquered wood, supported on black-lacquered wooden hai-dai, 盃台, cup-support. Right: kan-nabe, 燗鍋, warm sake-pot, iron vessel with V-spout and steel bridge handle with a scalloped edge likened to a snowflake, and black lacquered wooden lid.

For more on Setsubun and Otafuku, see also: Setsubun and Otafuku (article),  Setsubun and Risshun (article), Setsubun and Otafuku (picture gallery), Setsubun Lecture (video), Setsubun Tea Gathering (video).